Chew is a culinary comic. That is to say, it is a comic book about food.
It’s main character is a little fellow named Tony Chu (get it?). Tony Chu is a ciobopathic. That means that he gets a psychic impression of whatever he eats. He can eat a banana and get an impression of the tree the banana grew on, the worker who picked it, what pesticides were used, etc. Or, because Chu is a law enforcement officer, he he can eat the flesh of murder victims to find out who killed them.
Chu exists in a world where the American Food and Drug Administration is the most powerful law enforcement force in the world because not long ago several million people died ostensibly from bird flu. Chu comes to work for the FDA so that his boss, Mike Applebee, can make him eat disgusting things to fight crime. He partners first with Mason Savoy, a ciobopathic, and then with John Colby, a cyborg. He falls in love with Amelia Mintz, a food critic who is a saboscrivner, which means that she can write about food so accurately and so vividly that people get an actual sensation of taste when reading her reviews.
I wish I could do that with my reviews. Chances are you don’t have the actual sensation of reading Chew right now.
Stories ensue. Often they contain biological grossness. Sometimes there is gore, and it’s funny. The book is zany.
Chew is drawn by Rob Guillory, whose drawings are always silly. Guillory keeps the gross parts of book from being too nauseating by using a cartoon caricature style. His style is spicy, piquant, and more detailed than most cartoonists’. He also knows how to make characters act.
Guillory works from scripts written by John Layman, who has an intuitive sense for saporous stories. He seeds elements of story well before they come to fruition. Each chapter’s plot is full-bodied, and structured exactly as it should be. Layman letters every issue of Chew himself, so the dialog boxes are more creative zest than any other comic’s. He even has a sense of humor.
There are two trade paperback collections of Chew that have been released so far. The first, Taster’s Choice, collects five relatively self-contained stories that set up the ongoing saga. They are all clever. The second, International Flavor, sends Tony Chu to a Pacific island nation where a strange fruit that tastes just like chicken has been discovered. Such a fruit is valuable in a world where poultry is illegal.
Both of these collections are affordable, entertaining, and mouth-wateringly good. They may also make you hungry. You should buy them. Partly because John Layman is better at using food-related verbiage than I have been in this review.